Carnelian/Cornelian and Agate are both gemstones that are from the quartz group. However, both gems have a myriad of differences.
Natural Carnelian has few inclusions and a foggy impression; Carnelian made from colored agate has color banding or streaks in the crystal.
So why do people find it difficult to tell the difference at times?
We took an in-depth look at both gems and weighed in on what the gem experts have to say about Carnelian vs Agate, from their similarities and differences to identify them.
What is Carnelian?
Carnelian, also known as Cornelian, is a Chalcedony gemstone.
Chalcedony is a subcategory of the cryptocrystalline collective of gems identified as Quartz.
Carnelian is one of the rocks that has been utilized to make signet rings for decades.
Carnelian gets its name from the Latin word “fleshy,” which refers to the color orange to red-orange, which resembles flesh.
Due to the elegant red highlights that it receives from containing fragments of iron oxide, this vivid specimen is also called Red Agate or Red Chalcedony.
What is an Agate?
Agate is a transparent microcrystalline quartz variety. When consistency and color are desirable, it is used as a semiprecious stone.
Agate is formed by the deposition of silica from groundwater in igneous rock cavities. The agate includes concentric layers around the cavity’s walls or horizontal layers built up from the cavity’s bottom.
The striped patterns seen in many agates are the product of these structures. Geodes are those cavities that are lined with crystals.
Brown, white, red, green, pink, black, and yellow is only a few of the colors used in agate.
Is Carnelian a Type of Agate?
The short answer is yes.
However, there are a lot of factors to consider when determining if a Carnelian is an Agate.
It’s usually a solid shade, but it can be teamed up (banded) to which end it’s known as both Agate and Carnelian.
Carnelian, as mentioned in its definition earlier, is also called Red Agate.
It is the common term for the red to the deeper shade range of Cryptocrystalline Quartz if the stone has not been colored (Agate).
Although there is a globally accepted protocol for naming minerals, there is none for gem and near-gem and lapidary content, often rock rather than mineral.
This seems to create some confusion among those who aren’t specifically interested in lapidary; however, keep in mind that one person’s Red Agate might be another’s Carnelian.
Carnelian and Agate Similarities
They are both from the Chalcedon species.
Carnelian is often made up of agate and other components.
Different colors and pattern mixtures.
Carnelian is a form of chalcedony that’s either red or orange and does not come with a band.
If it is lined, no matter if it’s red, it is usually classified as an agate category.
However, different evaluators might have varying standards.
Carnelian and Agate Differences
Of course, agate is a form of chalcedony that can be found in a variety of jewelry.
The sequence of bands or stripes on agate is what makes it unique and different from Carnelian.
Agate comes in any color imaginable, depending on where it originates.
From the mossy green look of mossy agate to the burning reds of fire agate to the soothing lavender agate, there’s something for everyone.
The variety of these gemstones is incredible.
Carnelian, on the other hand, is another stunning member of the chalcedony family.
However, Carnelian is a chalcedony variety that is red, orange, and sometimes amber.
It’s usually a solid color, but there are banded forms, at which point, they are known as Carnelian Agates.
Carnelian has been regarded as a gemstone for many centuries, but its importance and value have diminished dramatically since then.
The Difference Between Carnelian And Banded Agate (Sard)
A thin line separates Agate and Carnelian, and these two terms are used to denote a variety of related stones; however, some variations must be noted.
Carnelian has a lighter color range, ranging from reddish-brown to orange, while Agate has a darker color range, ranging from deep reddish-brown to a hue that may only be defined as nearly black.
Carnelian is a delicate stone, while Agate is a more rigid, coarser stone.
Carnelian has an uneven, conchoidal, and splintery fracture, while Agate has a dull and jagged fracture; the inconsistent image might also be defined as hackly.
There are a few more characteristics that distinguish the two categories of rocks, but they are so minor that they can be overlooked.
How To Identify an Agate
The recognizable orange and yellow banding is a telltale sign if you’re looking for any, but the weight and size of a discovered rock can also further classify it as an Agate.
A polished Agate is easy to spot, unlike the unpolished ones.
Inspect the stone for clarity.
If it’s broken, and you can glimpse signs of a quartz-like mineral in addition to the red, brown, or orange color that many forms of agate have, you most likely have an unpolished agate.
Look for banding on the stone.
Check for banding, which happens in most agate forms, if the rugged exterior of the rock is shattered or rubbed off.
A lot of collectors and gem designers are interested in banding.
Measure the stone. The typical agate has a diameter of fewer than 3 inches.
You should heft the stone.
Because of their dense structure, most agate pebbles are heavy despite their small size. You may want to check the possible agates against other rocks in the region.
On the rough stone, look for a pit-marked surface.
Agates can be found in igneous rock and may have been encompassed by softer stones that have been eroded.
In the uncovered stone, look for waxiness.
Slide your fingertips over a break in the rock or a spot where the rugged exterior has worn away.
Waxiness may indicate the presence of an agate.
Look for abnormal (conchoidal) ruptures in the stone.
These fractures are frequently curled, with a wavy contour, giving the rock an irregular silhouette.
Conchoidal fractures are common in agates.
You can find agates in many locations.
How To Identify Carnelian
The majority of stones passed down as Carnelian today are dyed Agate stones.
Carnelian and agate are both gemstones from the Quartz family.
As a result, dealers are no longer allowed to specify whether a stone is genuine Carnelian or dyed agate when selling it.
The scarcity of gemstone today, as compared to in the past, has resulted in this trend.
Consequently, if you’re looking at a Carnelian bracelet or necklace, you may assume it’s made of treated agate; however, the buyer is free to ask about this because the dealer isn’t needed to disclose this detail.
A genuine Carnelian stone can be distinguished from one that has been cleaned even by the untrained eye.
Carnelian made from colored agate has color banding or streaks in the crystal, while natural Carnelian has few inclusions and a cloudy look.
Carnelian vs Agate: Wrap Up
When trying to learn about carnelian and agate stones, it’s important to note that they are both elegant gems, but Agate is more common.
Unless someone is really into geology, they may not know if they are being sold a dyed Agate for a Carnelian, but to make sure you’re getting what you requested, ask.